Despite the surge of traffic on the Jewish dating sites, many frum single men and women are choosing to stick with the time-honored tradition of turning to a shadchan, preferring the assistance, connection and sage advice of a live intermediary. A growing number of them are finding all this—plus their soul mates—with the help of Fayge Rudman.
Rudman, forty-six, from Monsey, New York, who specializes in setting up older singles, currently works for Gateways Connections, the singles division of the kiruv organization Gateways. Thus far, she has successfully matched scores of singles and recently beat her own record with four matches in five months.
“You’re going to get married!” is the message Rudman conveys to all 1,200 singles on her e-mail list. They have cause to believe her. For a decade, she’s been making successful e-mail shidduchim.
With her trademark good humor, Rudman calls herself “the Dire Straits Shadchan.”
“If you are drowning, gasping for air, thinking life is one endless date, do not be discouraged,” she once wrote in an article directed to singles. “I specialize in dire straits cases.”
She conducts her shidduch service strictly via e-mail. Preferring the speed and convenience of online communication to time-consuming interviews, Rudman requires her long list of hopefuls, who come recommended, send detailed profiles, and a description of the person they aspire to meet. She also holds periodic singles events in her home, often comprised of as many as 150 “hand-picked” participants. “I trust the people who are referring them,” says Rudman. “I invite men and women I would want as guests in my own home.”
Before each event, she e-mails invitations to her growing list, written in her comical style. “I would like to invite you to my next event,” a typical e-mail reads. “If you are a twenty-five- to thirty-five-year-old frum professional who is agreeable, balanced, clever, learned, modest, noble, open-minded, polite, quick, refined, sock-pairing, Torah-centered, zesty and nice, this event is for you!”
Thus far, Rudman has averaged one marriage per event.
Singles report they find a respectful advocate in Rudman. Chani, thirty-five, a personal shopper from New York, now happily married through Rudman, adamantly disagreed when shadchan after shadchan told her, “How could a cup of coffee hurt? Just meet.” According to Chani, those dates not only hurt, they also left her feeling depressed for weeks. Unlike those other shadchans, “Fayge looks carefully at each profile and fixes people up based on the descriptions,” says Chani. “She really pays attention to each detail.”
Rudman is known for her combination of acceptance and genuine concern. (Men like her because she doesn’t call them too picky, even if they are, and women respond to her friendliness and warmth.)
Rudman realized her knack for making shidduchim in her twenties, when she herself was single. She matched her boss with her friend’s boss and it worked. She then started setting people up on a small scale.
In the mid-1990s, she decided to take her talent for matchmaking public. She noticed that in her Monsey neighborhood, the students at a local yeshivah for ba’alei teshuvah (her regular Shabbat guests) needed assistance finding shidduchim. She and two neighbors went to work planning a singles event exclusively for ba’alei teshuvah, placing calls to shadchanim across the metro area for leads.
Seventy singles attended. One marriage resulted.
Leah, now thirty-six, was thirty-three, when she met her future husband, Harry, then twenty-eight, at a Rudman winter event held at a resort hotel in upstate New York. Three years earlier, Leah had heard about the prolific “e-mail shadchan” through a friend who had met her husband at one of Rudman’s events. Leah decided to give it a go. She attended ten of them and never lost hope. “I’m an extrovert,” she says. “So these things aren’t uncomfortable for me.” Her eleventh event proved to be a winner.
Word of Rudman’s matchmaking expertise has even reached other shores. Despite a raging December ice storm, Rudman refrained from canceling an event to accommodate two single men who had flown in from London. She received an e-mail from a young man from Turkey asking for her assistance in
finding a suitable girl from a bordering country. Her local clients know to ask her for dates whenever they plan a trip to Denver, Los Angeles, Miami or Australia.
Even the clients who meet their spouses through other venues say that Rudman’s encouragement proved essential in getting them to the chuppah. One thankful devotee e-mailed her saying, “You didn’t make my shidduch, but you gave me chizuk. You told me I would get married.”
“Singles need optimism more than anything else,” Rudman says. “The reason my singles love me is because I give them hope.”
Bayla Sheva Brenner is senior writer in the OU Communications and Marketing Department.